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Spirituality, Self-Help, and Subjective Wellbeing Culture

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Part of the Religion, Spirituality and Health: A Social Scientific Approach book series (RELSPHE,volume 6)

Abstract

A steadily increasing number of Euro-Americans, when asked their religious affiliation, have self-identified as “spiritual but not religious.” My investigations, both theoretical and empirical, have led me to identify a shared cultural structure underlying much of what goes by “spirituality” in late modernity—which I call the religion of the heart. In this chapter I advance a twofold argument: first, that in the wake of what Philip Rieff once referred to as the “triumph of the therapeutic”—that is, the eclipse of the language of biblical religion by that of psychology—talk of “spirituality” has become increasingly intermingled with notions of health, healing, and subjective well-being—such that it is quite difficult to disentangle them. Second, drawing from qualitative research consisting of in-depth interviews with “spiritual but not religious” (SBNR) and neo-Pentecostal Canadian millennials I argue that self-help and humanistic psychological discourses can (and often do) serve to transmit the religion of the heart by secular (or psychological) means. That is, the languages of self-help and humanistic psychology serve to enable a kind of “overlapping consensus,” whereby individuals who subscribe to the religion of the heart translate their metaphysical beliefs into a more secular—and therefore socially acceptable—register.

Keywords

  • Subject
  • Well-being culture
  • Spirituality
  • Humanistic psychology
  • Self-help
  • Therapeutic culture

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Notes

  1. 1.

    For more on my research process and methods see Watts (2020).

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Correspondence to Galen Watts .

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Watts, G. (2022). Spirituality, Self-Help, and Subjective Wellbeing Culture. In: Mossière, G. (eds) New Spiritualties and the Cultures of Well-being. Religion, Spirituality and Health: A Social Scientific Approach, vol 6. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-06263-6_3

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